Let Off Some Steam

Let Off Some Steam is a new section where we let you guys get something off your chest – it can be a vitriol laced rant, a sappy love letter to whatever, or anything inbetween. Send your magic words in this direction, and try and keep it under 600 words. This time achievements is on the receiving end of a rant from Jo Con.

The State of Achievements

When the 360 came out and the whole achievements thing was revealed to me I thought it was the best idea ever: finally a concrete and easy way to record all I attain in my games and lord it over my mates.

But the joy has waned. The pursuit of gamer-score has begun to distract from the games and even directs how I play them. The ever increasing number next to my tag becomes more and more meaningless as it grows larger with the spoils of empty accomplishments tacked onto games to make up the numbers.

Games get abandoned unfinished as I burn myself out spending too much time hunting for collectables and grinding side quests. (RDR I'm looking at you.)

Something has to change.

I think some sort of record of your progress and exploits in a game is good. I like there being proof of me completing all the Halo games on Legendary for example or getting the Endure achievement in ODST. But I do think they should be stripped down a bit, reduced to the important bits.

Get rid of basic easy stuff: "Healed myself for the first time" and "Killed my first enemy". These are not achievements people!

Enough with grinding achievements like "Fired assault rifles 1000 times" (Now do it with the Shotgun, LMG and Sniper Rifle) or "Use X ability 200 times".

Record this stuff sure but I remember standing around in Mass Effect spamming the various abilities into a wall because I knew I was so close to the required number.

Ditch ones that affect how a player plays a game such as going 100% good/evil or "Complete mission X by doing Y" or "Drive car B for 100 races"

Hell, perhaps limit the tracking of such things in games altogether and just tell me at the end what kind of player I was.

Collection achievements are getting a bit much - at least the audio logs in Bioshock advanced the story-line but collecting flags, feathers and Templars in AC? That's just padding the game.

And multiplayer achievements? Not everyone can or wants to play online, especially games that are not established multiplayer greats.

I would have 100% in Bioshock 2 if it did not expect me to get to the top of the online rankings to do so and that kinda annoys me.

Also, make them mean more than a number. Include in-game bonuses for getting certain achievements such as in Mass Effect or the Katana in Halo 3.

Collections too - have there be some point to it like in Farcry 2 where the diamonds are used to buy better guns or the Bioshock audio logs expanding the story.

I know I don't have to try and get them, I could just turn off the notifications and pretend they don't exist. But they do. Some of them are good and worthy of striving for and being this close to getting one more and then just walking away is a hard thing to do.

Achievements are here to stay and that's a good thing, but please lets abandon this minimum number required in a game and focus on quality over quantity. Make them a record of accomplishment instead of a stats-padding numbers game.

What's your view on Achievements - how can they be improved? Do you care about them? Do they dictate your gaming experience?


Comments

    Agree with a lot of what you said.

    I play WOW and would actually like them to make the achievements account wide. So that you can change to an alt and not have to grind similar ones or even lose a massive amount of rare unachievable ones because you no longer wish to play a class you spent many years putting effort into.

    It humours me that apparently people spend money on an apparently mediocre game like Terminator Salvation just for an "easy Platinum".
    I guess that's one way to make you game sell?

      I think I'm the only person in the world who actually enjoyed Terminator Salvation... yeah, I bought it to get 1000gs, but also because I love Terminator-y things. And I was fully satisfied on both accounts.

    Great piece Jocon.
    As a self confessed cheev whore, i feel your pain.
    They do need to become more worthwhile and tied more to game/story progression than achieving a stat (Not that it has stopped us it seems!)
    I think that developers come up with about half the cheevs for the actual game and then base the rest off stats or multi-player accomplishments.
    I personally like Fatshady MBA's idea of mapping the cheev sound to PC Notifications. Fail sounds like win
    http://majornelson.com/archive/2007/03/15/download-the-achivement-unlocked-sound.aspx

    Don't know if you read this article, Mark (maybe this rant was spurred on by it?) http://games.on.net/article/11412/Nintendo_Says_No_Thanks_to_Achievements

    I think Nintendo have said the right things. Achievements effectively take the fun of exploration out of a game. I HATE Achievements, yet I find myself grinding them out because of how obsessive compulsive I am.

    Truth be told, i'd rather have no achievements for any game, but since it's clear that they are here to stay, I 100% agree with you - they need to be pruned back to the stage of being actual 'achievements', instead of arbitrary tasks.

    While achievements that give you a little something special that doesn't really do much (such as Halo's Katana, or World of Warcraft's mounts and mini-pets) are great, achievements that unlock game-play affecting items is a big, BIG no-no (ala TF2). No-one should be forced to grind achievements to stay competitive in a game.

      This wasn't my rant! It's a reader rant!

      But yeah, the US covered that story - I think it was on here last week.

      I've suddenly become really interested in achievements and what they mean for gaming. Look at a game like Bulletstorm. It's constantly throwing numbers at you, as a reward. That seems like the end point of some mad pinball style of mechanic that keeps you interested like a poker machine. It's interesting.

        oops! Guess I missed that part of the article.

        On the whole thing about numbers, when it comes down to it... why do we play games? (especially RPG's and RTS's?) TO MAKE OUR NUMBERS BIGGER! In Warcraft, for example, we spend hours upon hours raiding, grinding, and farming so we can get better gear that gives us bigger numbers.

        Heck, even in simplistic FPS's like Team Fortress or Quake, we are just trying to get a bigger score, or a bigger K:D ratio.

        We like seeing big numbers, and achievements have cottoned on to this!

      Yeah it started out as a comment to that article.

      Cheers for posting this Mark!

    A good example of a decent trophy/'chiev system was Burnout Paradise. You didn't have to get EVERY collectible, and you could plat without it, but there were extended in-game awards past the trophies, like new cars etc

    Unfortunately all these achievements you think are pointless are not going to go away, because I think the real reason game developers put those useless achievements in their games is to use them as a statistics gathering tool.

    A "You just killed your first enemy!" achievement would be a pretty accurate way of finding out how many people have played their game (everyone in the world who has ever booted up the game must have shot something).

    Putting achievements at the end of every single level allows them to track how many people have actually bothered finishing their game, and if they haven't finished it how far through it did they get before they got bored.

    "Got X kills with Y weapon" lets them know which weapons are favoured by the community, and possibly which ones are over-used and/or over-powered.

    Personally, I don't go out of my way to collect achievements. In fact, I find it mildly annoying to have random achievements popping up on my screen while I play. I completely ignore that they exist and just play the game the way I want to play it, and I think I have more fun that way.

      You make an awesome point - are achievements just a way for developers and publisher to get marketing feedback on their games?

        They do take a lot of telemetrics (I think that's the word) and use them to figure out player psychology and how games are played.

        Things like how many players completed certain parts of the game would be awesome information to have when designing games.

      Wow, that's something I never thought of, but it actually makes a lot of sense.

      There's an option on steam when looking at a games achievements to filter it by how many people have gotten which achievements. This way, it's easy to see which ones are no-brainers and which ones actually gives you some e-peen points for getting.

      PS: One of these days i will learn to spell achievements without having to use the spell checker every time...

        Get to it... being able to spell achievement unlocks a cheevo that's worth about 20 gamerscore points.

        Actually, wasn't Will Wright going on about earning achievements for real world actions mid last year?

      except if this were the issue they could hide all that behind the scene's anyway(i think they do since PC games had stats like that before achievements)

      not to mention that as stats go they become useless anyways, because people with multiple accounts on there 360 will end up with achievements across accounts leading to doubling or tripling in some households

      what im sick of is the companies using them as a cop out to increasing replayability.

      sure we have 5 hours of gameplay but the achievements require you to play though on normal to unlock hard and hard to unlock insane.

      just let me play on insane the first time Goddamnit

      Had never even though of that. The more i think about it, the more it seems the most logical reason for some of the most illogical achievements.

      PS Steven, just cheat and call em cheevs :)

    I like them.

    As I've said previously, I won't go specifically looking for them, but if there's something notable I'll at least give it a try.

    Mile high club and the broken fall one from Reach are good examples.
    You've got to make an effort for those, ones that involve spamming weapons or powers or health packs... or collectables are just aggravating.

    The best implementation of acheivements I have seen were those introduced with Team Fortress 2 on steam.
    The initial set of thirteen gave people focus when first diving in to the game for the first time, either with characters or maps.
    Then, the real fun began. Updates.
    While the introduction of the medic update saw a lot of soaring syringes and bonesaw battles, Valve learnt from their mistakes, adjusting previous sets and releasing some class updates simultaneously, such as heavy and demoman, and spy and sniper.
    Each time they encouraged useful play styles and new techniques, as well as rewarding players with alternate but balanced weapons.

    I don't like any achievements that encourage boosting. Check "King of the Hill" in Gears of War 2. Pretty much every game is just boosting. Especially during #x exp weekends.

    I don't mind using a specific weapon achievements, because it encourages you to use and experiment with different weapons. It's really easy to run through the whole game using your default weapon, or picking up the first enemy weapon you find and running over corpses to collect ammo.

    Same thing applies to different gametypes. Teamdeathmatch always has the most players because it's simple to follow. An achievement in CTF would need more teamwork to achieve.

    But achievements are becoming easier because now games are implementing in-game challenges. These can update to be different everyday (Halo: Reach). Although some lose their purpose (Prestiging in CoD).

    Achievements are good because they can make a player put more time into a game to collect them or to use them to explore new areas they missed or use something they ignored their first time through. Would you rather spend 100 bucks on a new game to only play it for 8 hours or to play it for 20 hours? (although this doesn't work for people who don't give a damn about them).

    Good one. Hate those pointless achievements.
    Like the good ones(Man, If I were less hot this comment mite make sense...).

    I still say that the WoW Acheesement system is what every acheesement system should be. You complete an epically long and hard acheesement, then you should be rewarded for it by an ingame extra for that game only.

    Damn. I started reading this and I was already planning my argument why I disagreed. I read it and I just can't disagree. All good points. Nice work mate.

    I am late to this party but:

    Achievements are completely irrelevant to gameplay. Its ridiculous that any game designer should put a task in his game that has no gameplay-related reward. Its BAD GAME DESIGN. If you played basketball and someone told you, if you play this whole game running backwards I'll give you a gold star, would you do it? No, because its hard and a waste of time and has nothing to do with basketball. Games are already an auto-tellic system (ie a challenge you do for no other reason than the intrinsic pleasures and justification offered by the game). They are already filled with 'achievements' and shouldn't have external ones tacked on. Unless.....

    There are other people doing it. Achievements are not a reward for the game you're playing. They're a reward for the meta-game of gaming. You're showing off what a good 'gamer' you are, not a player of GOW3 or FarCry 2 or WoW, but gaming in general. It's a higher level social thing. We're competing with each other even when we're not playing the same game. (Mostly this is for the Trophies and XBLive Achievements, doesn't apply so well to WoW) It isn't good game design though. Achievements are, essentially, currency. They make you 'rich' with something that has no inherent value.

    This was a huge issue in the game critics community last year. Check this out: http://www.critical-distance.com/2010/04/21/jesse-schell-design-outside-the-box/

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